I’ve never experienced a worse case of the “scaries.”
It was the day after New Year’s and my mom had just dropped me off at the airport. The day I kept saying to myself was so far off had finally arrived — the end of my holiday break. As I went from check-in through security and on to the boarding queue, the pit in my stomach grew. Back to the salt mine.
For four years, after Christmas break, I’d headed back to Notre Dame for a brand new semester, a fresh start. New classes, new professors, a clean slate. That fresh start kicked off with “syllabus week,” a week of no homework, of parties and nights out and, the best part, of reuniting with my friends. I was always excited and beyond ready to get back to campus.
This was different. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my family just yet, and I was especially jealous of my younger siblings who all had two more weeks of doing, well, nothing. My family is from Southern California, so I also wasn’t ready to leave the sunshine for ice-cold Chicago. Or, the comforts of home for the office. (Though I couldn’t complain. Since the advertising industry shuts down for the holidays, I did get almost a full two weeks off — unlike my finance friends who were back at their desks two days after Christmas.)
Still, the thought of being back in my company’s Michigan Avenue office, my Outlook calendar blocked full with meetings and hot deadlines, seemed incredibly daunting to this girl, who only a year earlier was heading back to Notre Dame for the most fun semester of her college career.
It’s not exactly that same fresh start returning to work. The first week back is not playful. I was thrown back into client work that had carried over from 2016, and suddenly a million more projects popped up as my colleagues and I began ramping up for campaigns that will launch in March.
I’ll admit it: Two days back and I was in a slump. Realizing the real world isn’t broken into semesters hit me hard. It’s never-ending from January to December.
I wasn’t the only one thinking this either. My friends were also consumed by this overwhelming anxiety. Mentally, how were we supposed to make it? We needed to act.
Our solution: Have our own “syllabus weekend.”
Martin Luther King Day was on the horizon, which meant a three-day break. Friends living in New York from Midtown to FiDi offered to be our hosts. So, we non-New Yorkers requested half-day Fridays and hopped on flights for a four-day spree. By the time we touched down, we had a 35-person group chat called “ND NYC MLK Reunion 2017” going in full activity-planning, dinner-reserving, pre-game-organizing and bar-hopping mode.
We had a weekend.
Struggling at LaGuardia airport Monday morning, my Chicago friend Lisa and I joked that New York might’ve won. But we needed it. Everyone back together, work out of sight and mind, we were kicking off our first full year as adults.
That Tuesday sitting at my desk, the slump was over. The weekend had picked me up. I realized we are still adjusting to our new lifestyles as grown-ups, figuring out routines at the office with colleagues and clients, and how to do those other adult things like paying bills, grocery shopping, dropping off dry cleaning, cleaning the apartment. The pressure of all this adjustment can be real, especially when it comes to our jobs.
It’s now up to us to pencil in our own “syllabus weeks.” The Notre Dame registrar isn’t dictating our semester-based calendars anymore, and there are no “homework-free” periods. But we can here-and-there be our college selves again. It’s learning how to balance our new responsibilities with breaks like these. It doesn’t have to be all work all the time. There’s a time to play, too.
Kit Loughran , a public relations/social account coordinator at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago, was this magazine’s spring 2016 intern.